Interview: Mamiko Motto

Mamiko Motto is never idle. Between Hepcat Radio, her weekly show for NTS, her regular DJ gigs and her full-time university studies, she’s constantly busy, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s just about to drop Amada, a 14-track compilation full of exclusive material for Dublin’s All City Records, and we caught up the Lithuanian-born, London-based DJ to talk Eurovision, ballet, how she connects the dots between Total Recall and Björk and much more…

So what have you been up to recently? “I am studying full time audio engineering. It’s an intense course without any holidays, so I pretty much have exams all through out the year. In the meantime trying to finish up all the small details for the compilation that I have coming up on All City Records.” How long have you been on the course? “I’m nearly done with the first year. I still got one more to go.” Has it been hard to fit things like the compilation and the radio show around it? “It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t want it the other way around. I love pressure. It makes me more creative. I somehow noticed that for a while now. Even if I have three months deadline to do a mix or something I will end up recording it in the last eight hours and it will turn out just as good or even better as if I would be doing in ‘relaxed’ mode. I like to call myself last minute baby when I’m stressed … but all that stress somehow turns my creative engine on to the maximum so it suits me.”

Can you tell us how you first linked up with All City? “I met Olan quite a few years ago when I was touring with Hudson Mohawke and was hanging with Mike Slott. I think first we met in 2008 or 2009 when Mike Slott, Hudmo and I had a gig in Twisted Pepper. I really enjoyed that weekend. I remember I made everyone watch Eurovision before the gig. I LOVE Eurovision.” I can’t imagine they enjoyed that. “It was very funny, cause we all were waiting for the Lithuanian band to come up, cause I’m Lithuanian, but unfortunately we turned the TV six minutes past the programme start and Lithuanians came first, so eventually we watched like other 20 countries, and never got to see the Lithuanian song. Put it that way… Everybody felt a big relief when Olan said ‘We have to go to the club now’. I was bit gutted. But it was an amazing party and I have very good memories about Dublin. Mike Slott also had a talking parrot, who’s called McLaud or Mcloud. I spent the rest of the weekend trying to tame him but he wasn’t having it. I’m really looking forward to return to Ireland. I really enjoyed my stay in Dublin every time I was there.”

Getting back to the compilation – how did you go about choosing the artists to feature on it? I know you’ve been championing Mweslee and Dorian Concept for a long time, but the other artists? “I’m just constantly looking out for something new , something different. Hosting a radio show for 10 years kind of trained me to I think. On weekly basis I try to surprise my listener and play a set of music that they wouldn’t come across themselves but would still love the sound of it. It somehow always was important for me to feel and make others feel too. This compilation is really based on feelings. It has 13 of my current and all-time favorite producers who I respect for their quality or originality. And a few very young artists like SCNTST or Silkersoft who are barely 19 years old and already developing original sound. I started working in the music industry being really young and now as I am older I really want to support young talents. It’s very important to me.” That’s cool. Since you mention him, I really love that SCNTST track, he’s got such a unique sound. “Yes. I am very happy I’ve met him. He is now signed to Boys Noize records, and has an incredible debut album coming out on 22nd of November, its called Self Therapy. It’s really mature in sound for someone so young. Bryan or SCNTST sends me three new tracks a day via Skype. He’s like a machine and I’m happy to notice that he’s just getting better and better in his skills. He will go very far if he’ll keep his ambition.”

The compilation has been in the making for a while now – what’s it been like putting it together, and why has it taken so long? “It’s a number of things. First of all it’s an exclusive compilation. Tracks have been deliberately made for this project. That takes time. It was a bit like conducting an orchestra. After producers made those tracks I still had to like them and accept them then I had to present them to Olan and get the pass too. Being perfectionist as I am is really tough on the job too. I had to find many perfect solutions for many not perfect situations which always pays in time. Finally we are here and the feedback and demand is incredible so far so I can not wait to share this compilation with everyone.” I’ve really enjoyed listening to it the past few days. It’s got a great diversity to it. “It definitely is very diverse. I was never sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. But eventually I decided to go with it as my aim was to create more of a listening experience than a selection of tracks for DJs to play in clubs if you know what I mean.”

The artwork is incredible – do you think it ties in with the music? “The artwork is incredible indeed. I definitely think it ties with me. Everyone who knows me says, ‘Oh Mamiko this artwork is you on paper’. It’s so true. I think it’s young, vibrant, inspiring and uplifting, and it gives you freedom to think for yourself just as I believe this compilation gives you freedom to your own thoughts and feelings.”

Your main role is as DJ, but you’ve done some production work – is there any more of that on the horizon? “Yes. I had to focus on my studies this year. I had a lot of physics, acoustics, decibel and all sort of theory lessons that I had to study hard, and working on the compilation and radio shows, DJ gigs, I ended up barely ever having any time to make music. Now as I’m pretty much done with the hardest stage of university and my future plans are kind of clear for 2014 I am really looking forward to finally finish my debut EP myself. I even have several labels who are interested in releasing it, but I just have to finish it.” Can you talk about what it’s going to be like yet? “You know it is difficult for me to describe it. It’s definitely electronic music. I would probably call it TOTAL RECALL genre. But a lot of friends of mine who heard it say it sounds like Björk a lot. So I guess somewhere between Arnold Schwartzneger and Björk … Ahhh I’m talking crazy again. You will just have to wait and hear it yourself.” Do you sing on it? Or is it instrumental? “I sing a lot… lately even more and more, but i am not sure I will end up using any of my demos with my voice on it. Total Recall is my favorite film in the world, I know it by heart. One of my favorite things about it is the sets. I’m really fascinated by all sorts of trucks and those big monster lookalike gadgets. None of superior graphics would ever change that for me.” Like the Björk ‘Army of Me‘ video? “Oh yeah that video is great too. See, maybe at the end there is a connection there!”

The way you DJ is, as far as I know, deliberately haphazard. Have you faced much conflict over that? “It depends you know. I definitely do that at the radio. Radio feels a bit like my home where I just play music I want to hear and let my friends hear too. As for clubs. It depends. If it’s a cosy capacity and If my spiritual animal feels good inside then we go for it. But if I play in front big audience I have to deliver energy which I have to say I more and more enjoy doing. I probably would call my sets organised confusion. Even if I mix 100 genres in 30 minutes set I still know what I’m doing in my head. (Or at least I hope I do). I just want people to hear something fresh and new rather than same 50 tracks that knock about your regular digital record stores.”

I know you haven’t lived there for a while, but do you keep up with music from Vilnius? Could you recommend any Lithuanian artists for us? “Yes. I don’t live there for a long time and I don’t visit Lithuania as much as I should, but I still got very warm feelings for my homies. I recommend producers called Marriage Proposal or Boyfriend. Mondayjazz are always doing good things and all my Satta Festival crew are putting Lithuania on the electronic music map. We have a strong Jazz & Classical music culture as well as Ballet which I am particularly proud of.” Did you do ballet as a child? “Yes. It was my first dream to be a ballet dancer. I started going to classes since I was three but eventually my father had to teach economics in Russia or Germany and there was no one to take me there. At the same time the ballet standards in eastern Europe were really particular, and it always seemed like I was too chubby as a child. But my heart still bleeds a bit remembering how sad I was to be forced to quit my first life dream ever, lol. I couldn’t ever pronounce it. I used to say I want to be ‘baralina’, cause I couldn’t pronounce L, and would replace it with R. Lithuania is a nice little country. It would be difficult for me to say it otherwise. Vilnius is really pretty and looks a bit like mini Vienna. We also have seaside and loads of forest, nature. It’s cute.”

When was the last time you danced? “This morning. I have a dancing routine every morning unless I’m really late. But I start my day with the shower, coffee and nice fake karaoke/dance/getting dressed kind of performance for myself in the mirror. Usually to some 80s jams. It always puts me in the good mood to start the day and face the world.”

What’s your drink of choice? “Vodka. I drink vodka lime soda. LOL. Not gonna say anything else.” What brand of vodka? “Grey Goose is fantastic brand. But I also love Lithuanian Vodka a lot. I think they really do a very good job at it. I always try to bring back some bottles when I travel there. Otherwise on a no special occasion kind of night I drink Russian Standard or Stolichnaya.”

Mamiko Motto presents Amada is out on November 8 on All City Records.

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...